Reviving Tru Jamaica; Urban Bliss; Holiday travel; Hispanic Chamber move


Help is arriving for Tru Jamaica, the East Waco restaurant gutted by fire Dec. 8prompting it to close temporarily as owners Anticeto Charles and Vivia Charles gather their resources and plan a return to business. The source of authentic Jamaican dishes already is being missed by some, one donor to a GoFundMe account saying life is tough without Tru Jamaica rum cake.

The Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring the GoFundMe account.

The building at 937 Taylor St. appears intact from the outside, but suffered “significant unsalvageable damage to the commercial kitchen, dining room, electrical, HVAC, Roof, Artwork from the world-renowned artist and fellow Wacoan, Ira Watkins, and countless other losses,” according to the GoFundMe page. Aniceto Charles said last week that the business’ security cameras captured the start of the fire at an electrical outlet between the kitchen and front counter.

As of Saturday, more than $21,000 of the $58,000 GoFundMe goal had been raised. Bubba’s 33, a pizza parlor and sports bar at 2601 S. Jack Kultgen Expressway, near Valley Mills Drive, will donate 10% of food sales Wednesday to the GoFundMe account, spokesperson Nathan Watkins said.

“We’re definitely going to rebuild,” Charles said by phone. “We have pretty good (insurance) coverage. We just don’t know how much it’s going to take to do what must be done. We own the building. The bricks are still solid. There is insulation. We will rebuild on this site, at this location.”

He said he will pay his eight staffers until Tru Jamaica reopens.

Asked about his business burning amid other successes, Charles said, “The Lord knows what’s going on. He is here to prosper us. We just have to be patient. We were blessed with the business, and are blessed with the GoFundMe account.”

“We will pay our bills and our staff from GoFundMe and our pockets.”

The Tru Jamaica restaurant was gutted by a late-night fire Dec. 8 that destroyed most of the East Waco restaurant’s interior, which co-owner Aniceto Charles described as “a total loss” and “melted.”

Urban Bliss on Franklin

Urban Bliss Boutique, a women’s clothing and accessories store at 635 Robinson Drive, will place a shop in downtown Waco, at 600 Franklin Ave. to be exact. A building permit has been issued for finish-out work there, and a Facebook post teases a downtown opening in the spring.

Facade work on Austin

Elsewhere downtown, building permits have been issued for facade upgrades to the building at 526 Austin Ave. Kelly Realtors’ Nathan Embry said by phone exterior improvements should enhance the building’s appearance. It has not changed hands, but expressions of interest are plentiful, he said.

The building opened in 1916 as National City Bank and more recently served as an office for attorney Ray Black before going vacant. A 2012 survey for the National Register of Historic Places notes its “fine design, quality of materials and lavish Classical ornamentation.”

“It is our plan to make it the best looking building on Austin Avenue, something the community can be proud of,” Embry said.

Holiday travel

Auto club AAA Texas predicts 8.9 million Texans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the holidays, specifically between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2. That represents a 3% increase from last year, and would produce the third busiest holiday travel season since 2000, a press release says.

“AAA Texas data shows year-end travel is surging, and trips are already being booked for 2023,” AAA Vice President Galen Grillo said in the press release. “The rebound in travel during the second half of 2022 has helped create momentum for 2023, including for the upcoming ‘wave season’ from January through March, when cruise lines offer some of their best promotions.”

News continues to improve for people planning auto trips during the holidays, with AAA Texas reporting that the state average for regular unleaded slid to $2.65 a gallon last week, down 11 cents from the previous week. Locally, the norm dropped to $2.56 per gallon, though motorists Friday could find $2.25 regular unleaded at the Circle K on South Loop 340 in Lacy Lakeview, $2.34 at Sam’s Club on East Waco Drive and $2.35 at H-E-B locations.

Hispanic Chamber move

The Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce announced Friday it is moving downtown, relocating from its longtime home on La Salle Avenue to 25N Coworking in the 500 block of Austin Avenue. The downtown location will help the chamber serve members spread throughout town, including “two growth zones of economic development, the LaSalle Avenue and 25th Street corridors,” a press release announcing the move says.

“Our chamber is where our members are, where they gather. Our members are spread throughout the community and we want to meet them where they are, by bringing programming and resources to their spaces more than ever,” chamber President Andrea Kosar said in the press release.

Kosar said the new address better accommodates a “hybrid work model,” as the chamber promotes locally-owned businesses and strategic partners.

Custom homebuilder Steve Sorrells created the space for 25N Coworking from an old bank building serving as his corporate headquarters and the neighboring Strand Theatre space. The result was 50,000 square feet of professional office space and 25N Coworking.

The press release says the chamber board and staff will search for a permanent location. It does not give the status of the chamber’s La Salle Avenue site.

A soiree Thursday afternoon celebrated 25N Coworking, a stylish, three-story destination by Steve Sorrells and his team, who spent two years turning the historic bank building and neighboring Strand Theatre space into a 50,000-square-foot location for professional office space and 25N Coworking, part of a development he calls 510 Collective.


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